Accounting Professionals Should Help Business Clients Help Themselves
Accounting professionals are being challenged as the perceived value of the services they traditionally provide to business owners is diminishing. Where the accounting professional was once viewed as valuable and integral player in the development of periodic business financial reports and the preparation of the annual tax return, many small business owners are now realizing that this post-facto activity delivers limited value to them on a daily basis. These business owners are more frequently turning to cloud solutions and online application services to provide them with constant access to the information they believe will help them manage their daily operations, and are often implementing the solutions without the knowledge or participation of their public accounting professionals.
Access to real time banking information allows a business owner to see activities relating to deposits and payments, yet fails to reflect pending receipts and payments. Anyone familiar with managing a checkbook understands this reality, and so do many small business owners, so they find ways to keep track of those undeposited funds and near-term receivables, as well as the outstanding checks for bills paid. With a small business, cash is king, and managing the cash flow is often the greatest daily concern of the small business owner. After the fact reporting and an annual tax return, no matter how accurately and professionally prepared, will not help the business owner manage their cash right now.
Business owners are seeking to obtain more frequent and in-depth information about their businesses, and are taking steps to obtain it. Accounting professionals serving these clients, while facing shrinking profit margins on current offerings, are not stepping in to take advantage of the opportunity to regain their position as the adviser and consultant to the business client. As a result, business owners are getting their “business intelligence” from other sources, even further diminishing the value of the accounting professional’s involvement.
Accounting professionals must recognize that highly useful and valuable tools exist now to help small business owners understand their businesses better, and which provide a level of education and guidance to help them make the various decisions they may face. Rather than viewing these solutions as competitive to the value of the accounting professional, accountants should embrace and adopt the use of these tools with their clients, and evolve the professional practice to helping ensure that the information presented in those solutions is always up-to-date and accurate. Further, by using these solutions to help educate the client as to the variety of situations which may arise in the business, the accountant significantly increases their opportunity to identify new areas of service where they may deliver a higher level of tangible and ongoing value to the client.